I was getting very frustrated one day wondering why it appeared my .htaccess file was being ignored and not processed by Apache. No matter what I did it was obvious that Apache didn't care about my .htaccess file. Then I realized that the default settings must be in effect, which is that my vhost didn't explicitly allow me to override the default settings.
This usually comes down to your vhost settings. Make sure you have an entry like this in your Apache vhost settings in order for .htaccess files to be processed, otherwise the default .htaccess settings in /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf are what take effect.
As you can see above, you just need an entry like this to fix the problem. Be sure that the path in the <Directory directive is the one to your document root for the vhost in order to get the desired results.
Now your htaccess files will work just fine in Apache as you intended them to.